Childhood to mid-lifeBorn in New Haven, Connecticut, Bush was the first child of George H. W. Bush and Barbara Bush (née Pierce). He was raised in Midland and Houston, Texas, with his four siblings, Jeb, Neil, Marvin and Dorothy. Another younger sister, Robin, died from leukemia at the age of three in 1953. Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a U.S. Senator from Connecticut. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, served as U.S. Vice President from 1980 to 1988 and U.S. President from 1989 to 1993.
EducationAs a child, Bush attended public schools in Midland, Texas until the family moved to Houston after he completed seventh grade. He then went to The Kinkaid School, a prep school in Houston, for two years.
Bush finished his high school years at Phillips Academy, a boarding school (then all-male) in Andover, Massachusetts, where he played baseball and during his senior year was the head cheerleader. Bush attended Yale University from 1964 to 1968, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. During this time, he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon, being elected the fraternity's president during his senior year. Bush also became a member of the Skull and Bones society as a senior. Bush was a keen rugby union player, and was on Yale's 1st XV. He characterized himself as an average student.
Beginning in the fall of 1973, Bush attended the Harvard Business School, where he earned an MBA. He is the only U.S. President to have earned an MBA.
Texas Air National GuardTexas Air National Guard. After two years of active-duty service while training, he was assigned to Houston, flying Convair F-102s out of Ellington Air Force Base. Critics, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Russ Baker, have alleged that Bush was favorably treated due to his father's political standing, citing his selection as a pilot despite his low pilot aptitude test scores and his irregular attendance. In June 2005, the United States Department of Defense released all the records of Bush's Texas Air National Guard service, which remain in its official archives.
In late 1972 and early 1973, he drilled with the Alabama Air National Guard, having moved to Montgomery, Alabama to work on the unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Winton M. Blount. In October 1973, Bush was discharged from the Texas Air National Guard and transferred to inactive duty in the Air Force Reserve. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force Reserve on November 21, 1974, at the end of his six-year service obligation.
Marriage and familyLaura Welch, a schoolteacher and librarian. Bush proposed to her after a three-month courtship and they were married on November 5 of that year. The couple settled in Midland, Texas. Bush left his family's Episcopal Church to join his wife's United Methodist Church. In 1981, Laura Bush gave birth to twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara; they graduated from high school in 2000 and from the University of Texas at Austin and Yale University, respectively, in 2004.
Prior to his marriage, Bush had multiple episodes of alcohol abuse. In one instance, on September 4, 1976, he was arrested near his family's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine for driving under the influence of alcohol. He pleaded guilty, was fined $150 and had his Maine driver's license suspended until 1978.
Bush says his wife has had a stabilizing effect on his life, and attributes influence to her in his 1986 decision to give up alcohol. While Governor of Texas, Bush said of his wife, "I saw an elegant, beautiful woman who turned out not only to be elegant and beautiful, but very smart and willing to put up with my rough edges, and I must confess has smoothed them off over time."
Early careerIn 1978, Bush ran for the House of Representatives from Texas's 19th congressional district. His opponent, Kent Hance, portrayed him as being out of touch with rural Texans; Bush lost the election by 6,000 votes (6%) of the 103,000 votes cast. He returned to the oil industry and began a series of small, independent oil exploration companies. He created Arbusto Energy, and later changed the name to Bush Exploration. In 1984, his company merged with the larger Spectrum 7, and Bush became chairman. The company was hurt by a decline in oil prices, and as a result, it folded into Harken Energy. Bush served on the board of directors for Harken. Questions of possible insider trading involving Harken arose, but the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) investigation concluded that the information Bush had at the time of his stock sale was not sufficient to constitute insider trading.
Bush moved his family to Washington, D.C. in 1988 to work on his father's campaign for the U.S. presidency. He worked as a campaign adviser and served as liaison to the media; he assisted his father by campaigning across the country. Returning to Texas after the successful campaign, he purchased a share in the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in April 1989, where he served as managing general partner for five years. He actively led the team's projects and regularly attended its games, often choosing to sit in the open stands with fans. The sale of Bush's shares in the Rangers in 1998 brought him over $15 million from his initial $800,000 investment.
In December 1991, Bush was one of seven people named by his father to run his father's 1992 Presidential re-election campaign as "campaign advisor". The prior month, Bush had been asked by his father to tell White House chief of staff John H. Sununu that he should resign.
Governor of TexasJeb, sought the governorship of Florida, Bush declared his candidacy for the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. His campaign focused on four themes: welfare reform, tort reform, crime reduction, and education improvement. Bush's campaign advisers were Karen Hughes, Joe Allbaugh, and Karl Rove.
After easily winning the Republican primary, Bush faced popular Democratic incumbent Governor Ann Richards. In the course of the campaign, Bush pledged to sign a bill allowing Texans to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. Richards had vetoed the bill, but Bush signed it after he became governor. According to The Atlantic Monthly, the race "featured a rumor that she was a lesbian, along with a rare instance of such a tactic's making it into the public record — when a regional chairman of the Bush campaign allowed himself, perhaps inadvertently, to be quoted criticizing Richards for appointing avowed homosexual activists' to state jobs". The Atlantic, and others, connected the lesbian rumor to Karl Rove, but Rove denied being involved. Bush won the general election with 53.5% against Richards' 45.9%.
Bush used a budget surplus to push through Texas' largest tax-cut ($2 billion). He extended government funding for organizations providing education of the dangers of alcohol and drug use and abuse, and helping to reduce domestic violence. Critics contended that during his tenure, Texas ranked near the bottom in environmental evaluations, but supporters pointed to his efforts to raise the salaries of teachers and improved educational test scores.
In 1998, Bush won re-election with a record 69% of the vote. He became the first governor in Texas history to be elected to two consecutive four-year terms. For most of Texas history, governors served two-year terms; a constitutional amendment extended those terms to four years starting in 1975. In his second term, Bush promoted faith-based organizations and enjoyed high approval ratings. He proclaimed June 10, 2000 to be Jesus Day in Texas, a day on which he "urge[d] all Texans to answer the call to serve those in need".
Throughout Bush's first term, national attention focused on him as a potential future presidential candidate. Following his re-election, speculation soared. Within a year, he decided to seek the Republican nomination for the presidency.
2000 Presidential candidacy
PrimaryIn June 1999, while Governor of Texas, Bush announced his candidacy for President of the United States. With no incumbent running, Bush entered a large field of candidates for the Republican Party presidential nomination consisting of John McCain, Alan Keyes, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch, Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle, Pat Buchanan, Lamar Alexander, John Kasich, and Robert C. Smith.
Bush portrayed himself as a compassionate conservative. He campaigned on a platform that included increasing the size of the United States Armed Forces, cutting taxes, improving education, and aiding minorities. By early 2000, the race had centered on Bush and McCain.
Bush won the Iowa caucuses, but, although he was heavily favored to win the New Hampshire primary, he trailed McCain by 19% and lost that primary. However, the Bush campaign regained momentum and, according to political observers, effectively became the front runner after the South Carolina primary, which according to The Boston Globe made history for its negativity; The New York Times described it as a smear campaign.
General electionOn July 25, 2000, Bush surprised some observers by asking Dick Cheney, a former White House Chief of Staff, U.S. Representative, and Secretary of Defense, to be his running mate. Cheney was then serving as head of Bush's Vice-Presidential search committee. Soon after, Cheney was officially nominated by the Republican Party at the 2000 Republican National Convention.
Bush continued to campaign across the country and touted his record as Governor of Texas. Bush's campaign criticized his Democratic opponent, incumbent Vice President Al Gore, over gun control and taxation.
When the election returns came in on November 7, Bush won 29 states, including Florida. The closeness of the Florida outcome led to a recount. Two initial counts went to Bush, but the outcome was tied up in courts for a month until reaching the U.S. Supreme Court. On December 9, in the Bush v. Gore case, the Court reversed a Florida Supreme Court ruling ordering a third count, and stopped an ordered statewide hand recount based on the argument that the use of different standards among Florida's counties violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The machine recount showed that Bush had won the Florida vote by a margin of 537 votes out of six million cast. Bush received 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266. However, he lost the popular vote by 543,895 votes, surpassing the previous 1876 election record.
2004 Presidential candidacyKenneth Mehlman as campaign manager, with a political strategy devised by Karl Rove. Bush and the Republican platform included a strong commitment to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, support for the USA PATRIOT Act, a renewed shift in policy for constitutional amendments banning abortion and same-sex marriage, reforming Social Security to create private investment accounts, creation of an ownership society, and opposing mandatory carbon emissions controls. Bush also called for the implementation of a guest worker program for immigrants, which was criticized by conservatives.
The Bush campaign advertised across the U.S. against Democratic candidates, including Bush's emerging opponent, Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. Kerry and other Democrats attacked Bush on the Iraq War, and accused him of failing to stimulate the economy and job growth. The Bush campaign portrayed Kerry as a staunch liberal who would raise taxes and increase the size of government. The Bush campaign continuously criticized Kerry's seemingly contradictory statements on the war in Iraq, and claimed Kerry lacked the decisiveness and vision necessary for success in the war on terrorism.
In the election, Bush carried 31 of 50 states, receiving a total of 286 electoral votes. He won an absolute majority of the popular vote (50.7% to his opponent's 48.3%). The previous President to win an absolute majority of the popular vote had been Bush's father in the 1988 election. Additionally, it was the first time since Herbert Hoover's election in 1928 that a Republican president was elected alongside re-elected Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress. Bush's 2.5% margin of victory was the narrowest for a victorious incumbent President since Woodrow Wilson's 3.1% margin of victory against Charles Evans Hughes in the election of 1916.
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